The Intersection of Technology and Litigation: Embracing the Digital Age
Technology has advanced at an astounding rate across practically every facet of modern life. Our cars are exponentially more complicated than they were just a decade or two ago, our communication devices are supercomputers compared to what we had just a decade prior, and everything from our manufacturing methods to how we deliver packages has become akin to a sci-fi film.
However, one field that hasn’t embraced technology so openly is the legal field. That’s not to say that it’s not used, or that modern litigation specialists don’t use advanced tools to do their jobs to the best of their abilities, but there is still a sense of hesitation in a few respects.
Today, we’re going to go over where this overlap in tech and litigation is, why some professionals are falling behind the curve, and the potential that this can bring if the litigation world embraces more advanced solutions to legal issues.
How Do Technology and Litigation Overlap?
Litigation isn’t a field where you see too much technology upfront. After all, it’s essentially just a formal debate over a situation designed to find a resolution to a problem. That more or less requires the two involved parties to talk with legal professionals providing oversight and making decisions based on state and federal laws.
However, technology is a lot more involved in the litigation field than you might think. As time has passed, the same conveniences we all enjoy in our everyday lives have made their way to the courtroom in some passive and not-so-passive ways.
Mainly, we can separate the most obvious uses of tech into three categories.
Evidence Presentation and Information Dispersal:
This is the primary way newer technologies have been used in litigation throughout history. As our methods of communication advance, we simply develop easier, clearer, and more accurate ways of delivering evidence, presentations, and general information to the courtroom.
This category covers simple things such as being able to stream evidence videos to individual devices for independent viewing, having the ability to send the judge evidence from cellphones, or being able to present interactive visuals that allow a legal team to create more accurate recreations of the events in question.
This is where technology and litigation overlap more readily, but while it certainly has an impact, it’s not as impactful on decision-making as the other two categories we’ll be talking about.
This is where the overlap between tech and litigation starts to become more controversial in certain areas.
As technology has advanced, so have the methods used to collect data and evidence surrounding a case. For the most part, this is seen as commonplace, and there aren’t any major debates surrounding the practice of using the most accurate and effective method available to collect evidence.
However, it does create some unique arguments. Especially in cases where evidence pertains to one’s financial, medical, and otherwise personal, information.
People who enter the litigation process still maintain their right to privacy unless the court deems such information to be relevant and necessary, or the evidence is gathered following a very specific set of guidelines.
With tech being such a massive part of our lives now, and often being involved in various aspects of any given case, there are sometimes instances where the method used to collect evidence in a technological format is controversial or flat-out unacceptable.
For example, it’s fairly easy to present oneself as somebody else and gain information that wouldn’t otherwise be shared via social media, it’s possible to bypass account owners and gain access to records that are technically protected with very few exceptions, filming people without their knowledge ways that simply aren’t okay, and more.
Most of the issues that plague this category come down to the ethical use of technology more so than the technology itself.
Conducting the Litigation Process:
Finally, this is the major area of concern at the moment when it comes to the technological overlap in litigation.
While it has technically been a concept for close to a decade at least, the COVID-19 pandemic brought technology to the forefront of the litigation field when it prevented the litigation process from being conducted in the traditional fashion.
Since people were not able to gather in confined places for a fair period of time, the litigation field had to find a new way to keep the legal process moving without breaking safety regulations and a slew of mandates.
Thus, a multitude of digital meeting options were considered and used in most cases.
Rather than showing up to a courtroom packed with legal teams, members of that court, and jury members in some cases, cases were held over Zoom calls and other live video platforms to enable everyone to participate without actually being face-to-face.
This is where most of the controversy comes in because this technology has entirely changed the legal landscape. While it gained prominence out of necessity, it was budding for a few years beforehand, and it has continued with more steam than ever before even now that the restrictions are gone.
Why Have Some Professionals Been Slow to Stay with Tech Trends in Litigation?
In some cases, litigation professionals have been slow to adapt to the rising tech trends in each of these categories. Whether it’s failing to learn about the technology used to disperse information in the courtroom or relay information to the courtroom, the rules and regulations around various technology-centered forms of evidence, and especially, when it comes to leveraging remote communication.
The dispersal of information categories can come more or less naturally, but the other two categories can be difficult to overcome without putting time and effort into fully embracing them.
Without an understanding of how technology is used to gather evidence and the rules and guidelines that must be followed when doing so, it’s difficult to make an effective case against an opponent who does fully understand those aspects of the modern legal field. It can also be exceptionally damaging to misuse technology for this legal purpose.
Namely, the more recent surge in using digital communication is where some firms find themselves falling behind. This is largely because it’s relatively new.
This can be damaging to a case, because many courtrooms, especially when handling less dire situations, are still relying on virtual communications for the entire legal process. There are simply too many benefits to pass up. However, that’s not the only part of litigation, that factors into. Communications between legal teams and clients are also greatly impacted, because a tool that provides many benefits, which we’ll talk about shortly, is going ignored.
Ignoring the technological overlap in favor of traditional methods, in any of these categories, results in firms falling behind and losing cases or not experiencing as smooth of a litigation process as they could.
How Does Embracing New Tech Potentially Benefit Litigation?
There are many valid reasons for the litigation field, and the entire legal system in general, to be hesitant when it comes to embracing new technology or massive technological advances. That’s undeniable.
From potential privacy concerns and the possibility of unethical behavior to the potential for miscommunication, connection issues, and even bailing on court all become much more prevalent problems.
However, technology doesn’t just present drawbacks. It also poses a number of potential benefits if it’s implemented correctly and carefully regulated.
Lower Court Costs:
In some cases, technology dramatically helps lower court costs. This is the case with remote communications. Legal teams and conflicting parties can conduct their legal business from practically anywhere. That reduces travel costs, requires less staff in courtrooms to maintain order, and generally helps cut back on costs considerably.
Considering legal costs and travel needs are some of the biggest barriers in the way of average citizens participating in the legal system properly, every small step toward streamlining that process is a positive move forward.
A More Effective Jury:
One of the main issues present when working with a jury is that the jury isn’t specially trained to handle legal matters. That’s the point. They’re our peers and average citizens meant to judge a situation based on facts from the perspective of the people who make up the nation.
However, that creates issues when it’s difficult for them to understand various legal concepts, or they can’t get an accurate depiction of what happened.
Technology has provided a number of tools that can be used to better illustrate the points being made in the courtroom so anyone present can understand them effectively. For example, imagine trying to recreate a traffic incident from both the view of the plaintiff and the defendant’s perspective. Both people are giving dramatically different stories, and you can only understand so much from looking at the area from limited-perspective photos.
Modern technology allows teams to create detailed visual depictions of the area that are animated to recreate the events with unmatched accuracy; allowing the entire court to visualize exactly what’s being presented in either side’s story.
This is invaluable, and similar technological tools are used every day for the same or similar effects.
Client/Legal Team Communication:
Communication between the legal team and the client involved in litigation is absolutely crucial. Being able to sit down and talk about different aspects of a case, gather information that can be used to build an argument, and generally prepare for the courtroom can easily make the difference between winning and losing.
However, it is difficult to have the level of communication needed to create a solid case when everything is handled during in-office visits and phone calls. At any time, more information might need to be shared, or there might be an urgent change that needs to be discussed. Having the means to do so effectively and without limitations is key.
Various forms of modern tech allow for this seamless communication; even when attorneys and clients are states apart.
Whether it’s a secured video chat, the ability to share files online, or anything else, this is a major boon for the litigation field, and it’s one part of the litigation world where many firms start to fall behind. Whether that’s due to the age of the attorneys and a technological fluency barrier, or if it’s a reluctance to spend time and resources implementing these new tools, it’s a huge missed opportunity.
Effective Gathering and Organization of Evidence:
If used ethically and in accordance with court guidelines and relevant laws, technology can also lead to more effective and organized evidence collection and presentation.
With most of our activities taking place online or being recorded digitally in one way or another, there is always a paper trail of evidence you can find in the digital world that can make or break a case.
Embracing various technologies allows for those forms of evidence to be gathered, organized appropriately, and entered into the court with great effect. Think of something such as financial records. Accessing those, in an ethical manner, can be a turning point for many cases. However, you have to have the tools to do so and know that the possibility is there.
Embracing New Technology Thrusts the Litigation Field Forward
There can be drawbacks to implementing so much technology into the litigation field. However, when you look at those drawbacks, they all tend to be problems when ethics and lack of regulation come into play.
If handled appropriately, implementing technology to the same extent we do everything else in our lives can completely reinvent the courtroom process, allow more people to engage with the court effectively, and provide a more seamless experience; much like tech has done for various industries or daily life.
However, to get those benefits, the legal field, predominantly attorneys who might be hesitant to start leveraging newer types of tech in their strategies, needs to embrace it.
As your go-to source for legal information, Litigation Legal Insight is here to help you understand what tech is trending, what’s likely to become more prevalent, and what you need to embrace to stay ahead of the curve. Contact us, today.